Former Sentry Insurance CEO John Joanis was the visionary behind the SentryWorld golf course when it was developed in the early 1980s, calling in Robert Trent Jones Jr. to design the 18-hole layout. Thirty years later, new CEO Pete McPartland brought the same architect back to update and improve the original design.
In actual fact, RTJ2’s associate Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi – who had worked with the company until leaving in 2012 to launch his own design firm – were the men who collaborated on what turned out to be a major renovation project which took the best part of two years to complete, between 2013 and 2015.
Drainage, irrigation and cart paths were renewed, hundreds of trees were removed to create extra fairway width, green complexes were softened and all the bunkers were refurbished during an extensive makeover that also some new holes introduced, though much of the original routing was left in place, including the much-photographed “Flower Hole” at the par three 16th.
The club hosted the 10th edition of the US Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship back in 1986, not long after the course first opened for play. Following its extensive new millennium makeover, the course was the venue for another USGA event involving female golfers – this time the US Girls’ Junior Championship – in 2019.
I have played Sentryworld more than ten times going back to the early 1990s. In that era, it had few competitors in terms of premium golf in Wisconsin, until Kohler started building. The thing that kept us coming back ton Sentryworld was the conditions. It was second to none, and that continues to be the case today.
However, it seems to me that this course is immensely over-rated, and I just cannot understand why. It is built on an unremarkable piece of flat land with a lot of artificial water features (more now since renovations). There is not a lot here that will be terribly memorable save the flower hole (a gimmick, but a very pretty one) and for me the fifth hole--a brutal, crescent shaped par five that I finally managed to birdie after years of frustration.
The course can be a stiff challenge, especially from the wrong set of tees. Again, conditions and service are top of the line. It just is not particularly interesting from a design standpoint. Lawsonia, Wild Rock, University Ridge, even Stevens Point Country Cub down the street are all infinitely more fun and interesting courses. When you could play Sentryworld for in the range of $100 to $150, I found it to be worthwhile. That they now charge nearly $300 for privilege (though it includes food) is absolutely insane. Go play Lawsonia Links three times instead for the same price.
Much improved layout with course conditions being more consistent and landing areas expanded made this return visit a pleasure.
Largish greens provide multiple pin positions that will change the strategy for best approach angle that was not always present before. Opportunities for making an approach shot immensely increased with the removal of a number of trees that could block out a good drive or cause you to run through the fairway.
New changes make this a keeper.